So what does that spectacular iceberg floating off the coast of Greenland have to do with the Lowcountry of South Carolina? A lot—and none of it good. Grantee Tony Bartelme makes the connections in a vivid story for The Post and Courier on a tour of Greenland’s massive ice sheets that includes travel on a World War II-era DC-3 in the company of an Elvis impersonator turned NASA climate scientist.
Bartelme's account (and the gorgeous photographs of Lauren Petracca) puts you smack in the middle of Greenland, with down-to-earth explanations of the science behind the threat that melting polar ice poses for low-lying communities like Charleston 3,000 miles away. Greenland’s ice is so thick that it generates its own gravity, Bartelme explains: “It pulls the Atlantic Ocean toward it like someone tugging a blanket. South Carolina is at the other end of this blanket, which means that Greenland pulls water away from our coast, lowering our sea level. But as the ice melts, its gravity disperses and its grip loosens. Seas at the far end of the ice’s power slosh back. That’s one reason sea levels in South Carolina have risen faster than many other places around the globe.”
“The Greenland Connection” is the latest installment of Rising Waters, The Post and Courier’s ongoing project that is part of our Connected Coastlines collaboration with news media outlets all along the U.S. coast. An equally impressive project running this month, grantee Jack Igelman’s series Changing Tides for Carolina Public Press, shows the myriad ways climate change is already disrupting the marine life of coastal North Carolina, from threatened seagrass and marshlands to the warmer waters producing a sudden boom in white shrimp but the near-collapse of summer flounder.
Igelman is especially insightful on an aspect of climate change too often overlooked: its impact on people’s livelihoods. An example is conflict between commercial and recreational fishers over flounder: A limited open season intended to conserve and rebuild stocks has resulted instead in a frenzied competition to catch as many fish as possible during the few weeks each fall when flounder fishing is allowed.
“This is the best example I know of the tragedy of the commons,” says marine scientist Louis Daniel. “We are the textbook tragedy.”
Image by Lauren Petracca/The Post and Courier. Greenland, 2021.